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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) is hoping to add to his great 2014 season with his first stage win at the Tour de France. Van Avermaet will be riding for Tejay van Garderen at the Tour this year, but hopes to mix team duties with personal ambitions.
The Belgian rider has his eyes set on stages two and five as possible places to realise his ambitions. Both stages encompass two of Van Avermaet's favourite areas in the calendar, the cobbles and the Ardennes. The second day from York to Sheffield has been described as a mini-Liège-Bastogne-Liège, while Simon Gerrans likened it to Amstel Gold.
"It's a little bit between Amstel and Liege," Van Avermaet told Cyclingnews. "It's a course that suits me. I hope to have a stage victory here in the Tour and that's the main goal. If I can take a stage victory then you can go for yellow, but at the moment you can't think about that just going for a good result in the first week."
This is only Van Avermaet's second Tour de France, after making his debut in 2008. He hasn't ridden a Grand Tour since the 2011 Vuelta a España. The 29-year-old won the points classification at the 2008 Vuelta, but this year's Tour de France gives him a chance to add a much more illustrious jersey to his collection.
Van Avermaet had a good start to the Tour de France, avoiding the final kilometre crash and finishing 13th on the opening stage. The good placing means that the yellow jersey is still within his grasp, although he says that it is not his priority.
"It would be great, but everybody is thinking this a little bit I think. I hope to have a stage victory here in the Tour and that's the main goal," he said. "If I can take a stage victory, then I can go for yellow. But at the moment I can't think about that just going for a good result in the first week."
A second chance for Van Avermaet to take only his second Grand Tour stage win comes on stage five. The 155.5-kilometre stage from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut takes in nine cobblestone sections and has been dubbed a mini Paris-Roubaix. While it's nowhere near as challenging as the main thing, we can expect many of the same men to finish near the front. Van Avermaet has gone well at Paris-Roubaix in the past and finished fourth in the 2013 edition.
However, for Van Avermaet, his top priority will be shepherding his leader Van Garderen through the stage safely. The American is making his debut as the team's sole leader and is looking to replicate his best result in 2012, where he finished fifth and took home the young riders' jersey. Van Garderen admits that he is still getting used to working for his new, younger leader but says he has every confidence in him.
"It's a bit different without Cadel, so for everybody it is a little bit new," he told Cyclingnews. "We have a lot of confidence in Tejay. He took the white jersey two years ago and he has the capability to be top 5 here in the Tour and that is the main goal, to do a good GC with him. Hopefully we can also have some stage wins with some other riders."